Religion: the ultimate tyranny
By PAULA KIRBY - WASHINGTON POST 'ON FAITH'
Added: Tue, 15 Feb 2011 19:50:37 UTC
The Washington Post's Question: Is freedom a religious or secular idea?
Is freedom a religious idea? As John McEnroe would have said, "You cannot be serious."
If you value freedom, you should flee from religion as the antelope flees the lion. Religion is the very antithesis of freedom, insisting on our complete subjugation to the unachievable demands of an invisible but supremely powerful overlord. Think of Islam, whose very name means 'submission'! Think of Christianity, which claims it is disobedience that brought original sin into the world, with all that entails in terms of suffering and injustice and even earthquakes and tsunamis. Imagine! To claim that human obedience is so imperative that the purposes of an omnipotent deity and the very fabric of the planet, if not the whole universe, depend upon it and can be catastrophically disrupted at the first whiff of rebellion - and then to claim that such a religion is the source of human freedom!
The Abrahamic god even enthusiastically endorses the vilest of all negations of freedom: slavery. In Leviticus 25, there is a direct quote from this supposedly perfect deity, specifically permitting the Israelites to take and keep slaves, the only proviso being that they must be from the neighboring tribes and not from their own people. Straight from the horse's mouth, as it were, and hardly a shining example of freedom as a religious ideal.
Religion delights in petty rules and the exercise of power over its followers. What theistic religion does not attempt to curtail believers' freedom with nonsensical decrees about foods that may or may not be eaten, fibers that may or may not be worn, days on which they may or may not work, coverings that must or must not be worn on their heads, books that must or must not be read, images that may or may not be created, words that may or may not be spoken, ideas they may or may not explore, actions they may or may not perform, rituals - whether physical or symbolic - they must perform in order to cleanse themselves of impurities of religion's own invention?
There is no aspect of our lives, no matter how intimate, which religion does not unblushingly insist on its right to control. Whom we may love, whom we may desire, with whom we may physically express those feelings: in such restrictions on our freedom religion is at its most insistent and intrusive. But it does not stop even here, for religion does not limit its control to our deeds or even words: no, the invisible Thought Police of religion do not scruple to pursue us even into the innermost recesses of our minds and there to stand ready to condemn us for our very thoughts. Not even the most heinous ruler or most brutal slave-owner ever achieved such extremes of tyranny; yet religion grants us no privacy, nowhere to hide, no freedom to entertain even a fleeting thought without its being immediately known to - and judged by - a cosmic dictator. Religion is the ultimate slavery: it is the slavery of the mind, slavery to the fear of divine judgment and damnation. The devilish irony consists in the fact that 'divine judgment' and 'damnation' are themselves the inventions of religion: religion creates and exquisitely perfects the fear, then cynically declares itself the sole and indispensable liberator from it.
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